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This image shows the bare, dredged chalk stream which forms the upper reaches of the River Gaywood in Grimston, Norfolk

Time for the King’s Lynn IDB to rethink its dredging strategy

We’ve been calling for a halt to dredging precious chalk streams like the Gaywood for quite some time. It’s an outdated and barbaric process that has been rightly been referred to as ecocide by those with scientific knowledge of England’s ‘rainforests’.

Yet, on an annual basis, the King’s Lynn Internal Drainage Board (KLIDB) persists with the annual destruction of this stretch of the Gaywood River near Grimston under the pretence that they are protecting King’s Lynn from flooding.

Speaking to Owen Sennitt in the Eastern Daily Press, Dr Sarah Taigel, argues that there is little reason to clear a thriving chalk stream of its vegetation in the channel, whilst removing that on the bank is “the equivalent to habitat annihilation, not just for fish and invertebrates but also water voles – a protected species.”

Russell Biggs, who regularly tests the water quality of the Gaywood River agrees, pointing out that such activity only leads to diffuse pollution and disturbed silt, which ultimately ‘suffocates life in the stream’.

In the photo above you’ll note that the weed – largely water crowfoot in this picture – and all the invertebrates have just been dumped up on the bank and left to die. 

Link to Story in the EDP.

 

Time for the King’s Lynn IDB to rethink its dredging strategy Read More »

Your memories of the Gaywood River

Gaywood River Revival is embarking on an exciting project to celebrate the heritage of our local chalk stream and set a benchmark for its restoration.

Chalk streams are not only rare landscape features but also support unique ecosystems, including unique chalk stream plants and distinctive fish and invertibrate species.

We would like to invite you to share your cherished memories and experiences related to The Gaywood River.

Your memories will help us weave a rich tapestry of all our experiences that capture the essence of this unique natural treasure.

We encourage you to reminisce and reflect on the moments, big or small, that have stayed with you. Whether it’s a childhood adventure, a special encounter with wildlife, or simply the river’s presence in your life, we invite you to share your words, thoughts, and emotions and any pictures you have. Your contributions will not only preserve these memories for future generations but also foster a deeper sense of connection and appreciation for our precious chalk stream.

Please take a moment to make a note of your memories and experiences, as every story holds a unique significance. You can simply type into the form on the “Memories” page.

Let us come together and celebrate the magic of our chalk stream, ensuring that its beauty and significance remain alive in our memories as we work to restore its health for generations to come.

Thank you for your memories and for being stewards of our treasured heritage.

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The “It’s not my fault” culture killing our river

An extraordinary exchange of emails which has recently emerged, reveal a serious pollution incident on the Gaywood River and makes it clear that it could very well happen again. This wasn’t the doing of some unscrupulous fly-tipper or chicken farm but of two key agencies entrusted to look after our river.

A couple of years back, the Environment Agency decided to downgrade our chalk streams to “ordinary watercourses” and to hand over maintenance to the King’s Lynn Internal Drainage Board (IDB). Consequently, the Environment Agency and the IDB conveniently have responsibility for different aspects of the river and, rather more seriously, have different priorities. Their failure to act together brought about a serious pollution incident last September with neither side apparently accepting responsibility.

According to a KLIDB report, “The EA contacted KLIDB in early October to inform us that they had been contacted by a member of the public, regarding concern over recent maintenance on the Gaywood River and the potential for IDB maintenance to stir up phosphates from the sediments. The member of the public alleged that this IDB activity had caused the death of two fish.”

[In fact it was one of out team that reported to the EA that there were “dozens of dead fish” (not two) along one stretch of the river.]

Although inspection showed that river margins and banks had been cut very short the IDB insist that the work was still technically within the remit of their Standard Maintenance Operations “for Fenland watercourses”. And there’s the rub, The Gaywood River is not a Fenland watercourse, it is a rare chalk stream but is not being treated as such.

The IDB go on to say that they have no control over the stirring up of dangerous levels of phosphates, even though their work does exactly that. They point out that “water quality of the river remains the remit of the Environment Agency as Regulator”. In other words, they know they are stirring up the phosphate laden silt which kills almost all fish in the river but once they have done so, it’s not their problem since it affects water quality for which EA is responsible.

You really couldn’t make it up.

Gaywood River Revival recent carried out tests on the river which showed that even down as far as The Walks phosphate levels were three times higher than they should be.

The question remains as to whether “as Regulator” the Environment Agency will be taking action against the IDB over this incident. It seems unlikely.
Meanwhile you’ll not be surprised to hear that plans have been published to mechanically clear the river of plant-life again this summer.

 

The “It’s not my fault” culture killing our river Read More »

Closure to help stream recover

A temporary closure order has been made to stop vehicles damaging the Gaywood River near Grimston.

Surprisingly, the narrow path alongside the  upper reach of the chalk stream from its springs at Grimston is classified as a byway. Recently however, groups of two and four wheel vehicles have been forcing a way through and have caused huge damage to both the path and the stream. On occasions vehicles have become stuck in the stream and even overturned, causing pollution as well as physical damage.

Norfolk Highways have now put a temporary close on the byway while restoration work is carried out. Concerns remain that the damage could be repeated when the order expires.

 

 

Closure to help stream recover Read More »

Environment Agency slams water company data

The Environment Agency today issued a damming comment on performance data supplied water companies. Recent news about the extent of untreated sewage discharges may have been understating the extent of the problem, partly because fewer outfalls are monitored than the water companies claim.

On it’s official blog the Environment Agency said that:

“Overall the water companies are claiming 96% EDM (Event Duration Monitors) coverage; however this is … wrong. The official data shows it is in fact 91%. In addition, in this year’s annual returns, there were a number of additional storm overflows reported by some water companies and some monitors are not operating as reliably as we expect.

It is the water companies’ responsibility to notify us about any storm overflow, pumping station or wastewater treatment works which does not have an environmental permit. They should apply for the permit as soon as possible after they identify the offending discharge.”

The water companies also appear to have been making unsubstantiated claims snout their “improved” performance.

”The 2022 EDM data shows a decrease in spills, which reflects last year’s drier than average weather. Despite claims by water companies and Water UK, the body that represents their interests, there is no evidence to show it is because of water company action. In fact, last year water companies only made improvements to 65 storm overflows – less than 0.5% of the overall total of overflows in the entire system – so we are very confident that water company action has not significantly contributed to the reduction in flows overall. For them to claim otherwise is wilfully misleading.

What is very clear from the data they have provided is that the number of spills they are allowing on the sewerage network is far too high and totally unacceptable. We are considering whether any action is required under our Enforcement and Sanctions Policy.”

 

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Gaywood River sewage dumping data released

Sewage was dumped into the Gaywood River 118 times last year for a total of 288 hours.

According to figures published by The Environment Agency, by far the worst offender on the river was the sewage treatment works at Pott Row Where untreated sewage was deliberately released into the Gaywood River 16 times last year for a reported total of over 180 hours. This is in addition to the treated sewage water which is continuously released into the river all year round.

Treated sewage release at Pott Row

Untreated sewage is also released from. Outfalls at Highgate and from a number of locations around the Millfleet although that data is incomplete since Anglian Water don’t yet monitor sewage releases at all locations.

The data gives a partial picture but the number of releases and the duration of those releases only tell part of the story. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing the actual volume of untreated sewage released as no data is given about flow rates.

Rivers Trust Map

The Rivers Trust have an interactive map of outfalls at https://theriverstrust.org/sewage-map

These are the recorded releases and do not include the accidental spillages such as those that saw raw sewage flowing down Watery Lane at Grimston, directly into the source spring seven times last year due to pump and pipeline failures and during rainfall.

 

Gaywood River sewage dumping data released Read More »

Another drought this year?

At last we’ve been having a bit of rain recently but is it enough to save us from drought this summer?

It looks very unlikely at the moment but of course “drought” in an area of chalk streams is a more complex business.

How wet our gardens are is largely dependent on recent rain. Across much of west Norfolk, the soils are light and free draining so it’s gone almost as quickly as it arrived!

For the chalk streams it is quite a different matter. Rainfall is absorbed by the porous chalk and it begins its slow journey towards the underground aquifer and eventually to head of one of our streams it can take months and years for today’s rain. And there’s the problem. The Gaywood, along with the other streams is running at an exceptionally low level; many springs have simply dried up, already. We are seeing the effect of past year’s exceptionally dry and hot summer alongside the increased borehole abstraction from the aquifer for irrigation and for our water supplies.

This weekend’s rain won’t be showing up in our streams for many months yet. Possibly not before the streams start drying up.

Another drought this year? Read More »

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